Refugees or farm workers, you choose
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Thousands of men, women and children are fleeing government and terrorist carnage in Syria and Iraq. Television news cameras cover the exodus and the overcrowded floating death traps on the Mediterranean Sea. We see thousands of faceless non-swimmers fleeing desperate poverty and/or bloody regimes. Cameras, however, aren't always around when boats sink and many drown in the depths of the Mediterranean.


Videos aside, one still photo, a photo of a dead 3-year-old boy washed up — like driftwood — on Turkey's shore drew the world's attention to the massive chaos. Countries as far away as Chile announced they would help by settling Syrian refugees. The refugee diaspora from ancient Syria and Iraq continues as terror and butchery force people to leave to survive. How many die like the 3-year-old boy, we don't know. Cameras are not always around.

This is a big deal. The United States had a taste of it last year when 150,000 Central American children crossed the Rio Grande and asked for asylum and protection. These weren't "illegal aliens": They came under laws designed to protect children from terror, carnage and conflict.

The refugee onslaught on Europe is living chaos and confusion. Confusion in the United States is also evident as it has been reprimanded by federal judges for treating refugee children inhumanely in prison-like facilities.

Children sleeping on concrete floors for over a year does not meet humane standards. Convicted murderers have better conditions. Running minor children before immigration courts — some say kangaroo courts — without legal representation is illegal.

As far as adults are concerned, deporting non-felons caught by broken taillights while convicted and many-times-deported felons are walking around free and repeatedly committing crimes is a ridiculous policy at any level — even in San Francisco.

In addition to thousands of refugee children, a serious national security problem exists in the American immigration conundrum that demagogic politicians lie about while crafting an illegal alien monster legend that doesn't fit the facts.

The problem is illegal farm workers in America. Here are the facts from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) of 2012.

Of all farm workers in the United States, only 29 percent are United States-born; 68 percent were born in Mexico and 3 percent in Central America. In the 1999-2001 survey, illegally present and unable to legally work farm workers were 55 percent of all farm workers in the United States. Since 2001, that percentage has fluctuated between 48 and 55 percent.

In California, the "illegal" farm worker is vital beyond words. California leads the nation in agricultural production with $46 billion, which also generates another $100 billion in economic activity. Males account for 82 percent of farm workers. The median age is 35 years. Fifty-three percent are married (which lends credibility to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's "act of love" statement relating to men and women risking their lives to walk across deserts and mountains for work in America to support children at home).

In 2005, a Cornell University study was done of the dairy industry in New York state that is breathtaking in its conclusions. While demagogues rant about illegal aliens and the jobs they do that Americans should do, we find that "75 percent of all New York state dairy workers were from Mexico, 24 percent from Guatemala and one percent from Honduras."

Apparently few, if any, Americans are willing to milk and care for cows 10 hours per day because, "On average, the Hispanic dairy workers surveyed worked 62 hours per week and only 16% worked less than 51 hours per week."

This is a big deal. Year after year half of all farm workers in America are illegally here and illegally working our critical, essential food supply. Is this tolerable?

Two solutions: The Donald J. Trump solution is arrest and deport all the illegal farm workers, which would force farmers to offer $20 to $30 an hour for workers unwilling to work at any price, or close their farms and/or force Americans to pay $25 or more for a gallon of milk shipped from China.

The realistic solution is simple: Expand agricultural visa programs to make them farmer-friendly so farmers can hire legal workers through American consulates in Mexico or Central America when they need them from applicants who have been cleared, documented and ready to work.

The farmer proves he tried to hire American workers, pays a fee, hires from the consulate list, provides round-trip bus tickets, housing, legal wages and posts a bond that payroll/income taxes will be properly paid. Simple.

This American problem, while large, is simply solved. The United States is fortunate; it has willing Mexicans/Central Americans to work. They would prefer to work legally. Farmers want that too. So do intelligent presidential candidates. Others would rather pay $25 for a gallon of Chinese milk.

Contreras has written several books on immigration and immigration reform, available at